Despite its 48-38 home loss to Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky on Tuesday, the Underwood girls basketball team enjoyed a successful first half of the season.
The Comets opened the year with four consecutive wins, including a District 10 victory at Washburn on Dec. 21. Underwood finished second in the McLean County tournament in January, dropping its first game of the season to district foe Wilton-Wing.
The Comets (8-2 overall, 3-1 district) do not rely on one or two players to lead the offense, but instead have several scoring options. In a win against Garrison, it was Charley Auck leading Underwood with 13 points,
followed by Erin Dammann with 12 and Abby Landenberger adding 11. Auck, Dammann and Landenberger have been the Comets' leading scorers over the last five games.
"The key to success has been the team play, the distribution of the basketball," Underwood coach Toni Cottingham said. "I have seven players who can score double figures on any given night."
But it's not the offense that has carried the Comets so far this season. Underwood's largest scoring output was a 67-point performance in the season opener against Solen. Since then, the Comets haven't scored more than 55 points.
Underwood's defense has limited opponents to 33.7 points per game. The 48 points surrendered to TL-M-M on Tuesday were the most given up by the Comets this season. Cottingham said her team's long arms make all the difference.
"Defensively, I am fortunate enough to have some long-armed, athletic girls," she said. "I can put out some big girls that can cover up a lot of area. No matter what defense we're in, we can cover a lot of ground and can tip passes."
The Comets will see just how talented they are in the next few weeks as they enter a grueling stretch. Underwood begins a two-game road trip at Grant County and Wilton-Wing, followed by home contests against Shiloh Christian and Center-Stanton. Also on the schedule are games against Velva and New Town.
Then there were four
It's more than halfway through the season and just four girls basketball teams remain unbeaten Bishop Ryan, Grafton, Ray and Parshall. Northern Cass was the most recent undefeated team to tumble, losing at home to Thompson on Tuesday.
The top-ranked Lions played their closest games of the season in the "Shootout on the Prairie" at the beginning of the season and haven't been tested since. Ryan knocked off ninth-ranked Shiloh Christian by 20 and put up 100 points against Surrey.
Ray and Parshall have yet to crack the top 10 in the polls, but are receiving votes and could be the beneficiaries of some more upsets to ranked teams. The Jays have posted quality wins over Trenton and Watford City, and have won its first four games in District 16 play. Ray's biggest tests come in back-to-back games against Parshall and third-ranked New Town.
District 8 flexing its muscles
It may not have a ranked team among its seven members, but District 8 has plenty of talent, headlined by Benson County, North Star and Rolla.
Benson County (8-1 overall, 1-1 district) and North Star have already played a classic in their district matchup, with the Bearcats (7-3, 1-1) handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season in overtime. Less than a week later, Rolla (8-1, 2-0) knocked off North Star on the road to sit atop the district standings.
Rolla hosts Benson County on Feb. 12 in a game that could determine the No. 1 seed heading into the district tournament. The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs 63-50 in the CNDC championship.